Skill 4: Use Various Communication Methods and Tools Effectively

Skill 4: Ability to quickly evaluate the effectiveness of the communication method being used (e.g., e-mail, Instant Messaging, chat, phone, etc.) and switch method if necessary.


  • For a user who is having difficulty following textual instructions, offer to switch to a more visual form of communication such as chat with the ability to push web pages or screen shots to the patron.
  • Offer to telephone a user who might learn better through oral communication.
  • Suggest a face to face reference meeting if logistically possible.
  • In order to better serve users with a visual or aural learning style, quickly create annotated screen captures, short videos, or other presentations that do not rely solely on written text.
  • Be sure all users have the necessary plug-ins and bandwidth for high end applications. Use technology that offers the most flexibility for the largest number of users.


American Library Association. Virtual Reference: A Selected Annotated Bibliography. ALA Library Fact Sheet 19, last modified August 2006, accessed July 31, 2013,

Bailey, Jody. “Informal Screencasting: Results of a Customer-Satisfaction Survey With a Convenience Sample.” New Library World 113, nos. 1/2 (2012): 7-26, accessed July 31, 2013,

Breitbach, William, and Adolfo G. Prieto. “Text Reference via Google Voice: A Pilot Study.” Library Review 61, no. 3 (2012): 188-198, accessed July 31, 2013,

Dalrymple, Connie. “Perceptions and Practices of Learning Styles in Library Instruction.” College and Research Libraries 63, no. 2 (2002): 261-273, accessed July 31, 2013, 
Elmborg, James K. "Teaching at the Desk: Toward a Reference Pedagogy." portal: Libraries and the Academy 2, no. 3 (2002): 455-464, accessed July 31, 2013, doi:10.1353/pla.2002.0050.
Griffis, Patrick. “Building Pathfinders with Free Screen Capture Tools.” Information Technology and Libraries 28, no. 4 (2009): 189-190, accessed July 31, 2013, Academic Search Complete (46729950).
Hensley, Randall B. “Learning Style Theory and Learning Transfer Principles During Reference Interview Instruction.” Library Trends 39, no. 3 (1991): 203-209, accessed July 31, 2013,
Mupinga, Davison M., Robert T. Nora, and Dorothy Carole Yaw. "The Learning Styles, Expectations, and Needs of Online Students." College Teaching 54, no. 1 (2006): 185-189, accessed July 31, 2013, ERIC (EJ744361).
Sweeney, Jennifer Karb. “Interpreting Skill Development in Academic Library Reference Work: An Application of the Dreyfus Model.” (PhD Diss., University of California, Los Angeles, 2006), accessed July 31, 2013, ProQuest Dissertations and Theses (ProQuest Document ID 305341661).